Schneider Introduced as Head Women’s Basketball Coach
LAWRENCE, Kansas – Goosebumps and the type of excitement that makes the hair on the back of your neck greeted Brandon Schneider nearly twenty years ago when he first stepped foot on basketball court at Allen Fieldhouse, in awe of the history and tradition that oozes from the venue. It’s a history that he’s now intimately part of as Schneider was introduced as the sixth head women’s basketball of the University of Kansas at a press conference Tuesday inside a packed Allen Fieldhouse media room.
“I just got to meet Max Falkenstein, how cool is that,” Schneider said of the long-time voice of the Jayhawks through a wide grin as he took the podium. “My first visit to Allen Fieldhouse was in the fall of 1995 – I was a first-year coach and I had called ahead to get permission to come and attend a men’s basketball practice. Before I even stepped on the court, I began to feel it – the goosebumps, the hair on the back of your neck. There’s a wave of something special about this place.”
With a 401-138 record and 14 postseason appearances in 17 years as a head coach, including an NCAA Division II National Championship and back-to-back Southland Conference Championships, at Emporia State and Stephen F. Austin, Kansas turned control of the women’s program over to Schneider with eyes on elevating it’s competitiveness and adding to the history and legacy of it’s storied home. Kansas Director of Athletics Dr. Sheahon Zenger introduced Schneider Tuesday morning, greeting him officially as KU’s leader after the last five seasons at SFA in Nacogdoches, Texas, and 12 ultra-successful years at Emporia State, just down the Kansas Turnpike.
“At the end of the day, we all know the importance of basketball at The University of Kansas, and with that in mind, we sought to find the best person to elevate our women’s basketball program to a higher level of competitiveness, both in the Big 12 Conference and the nation,” Zenger said while presenting. “That person is Coach Brandon Schneider.”
Schneider thanked a number of people in the audience, particularly his family and his father, Bob, who coached for 43 years, including 25 seasons at West Texas and won more than 1,000 games in his career, before taking questions from the media. A full video replay of the press conference is available on Kansas Athletics’ YouTube page (YouTube.com/KUAthletics) and a full transcript of the audio is available below.
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Press Conference Transcript, provided by ASAP Sports
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, and thanks for coming. This morning’s process is going to be very simple. We’re going to introduce Sheahon Zenger, our Athletic Director, for some comments, and then we’ll introduce our new women’s basketball coach. So without further ado, the KU Athletic Director, Sheahon Zenger.
SHEAHON ZENGER: Thanks for coming. We began this search six weeks ago, and I especially would like to thank Chancellor (Bernadette) Gray-Little for her continued support and steady hand as we strive for theThe Schneider family watches as Brandon is introducted as Kansas’ head women’s basketball coach.best in Kansas Athletics. Also, Debbie Van Saun for guiding this search. Debbie is our Senior Associate Athletic Director, Senior Women’s Administrator here at The University of Kansas. Her great attention to detail and her efficient administrative skills led us through one of the most thorough searches that I’ve ever been a part of.
Finally, Katie O’Connor, her loyalty to the University of Kansas, the young ladies on this team and our recruits made it possible for us to move at a consistent pace throughout the past six weeks.
I’ve found that as any coaching search moves along and nears its eventual end goal, a phrase often emerges that describes the process and the coach, or the candidate that you’re narrowing in on. This search was no different. In Coach Brandon Schneider what we found was and is a coach that checked all the boxes; a coach that’s spent his career in Kansas and Texas; a coach who can identify and recruit talent in the Big 12 corridor; a coach who has consistently recruited and identified that talent; a coach who has consistently won at two different institutions; a coach who has won multiple conference championships at both schools, including back-to-back championships in the Southland Conference; a coach who has won a National Championship; a coach, and this is unusual, who grew up in the world of women’s basketball. His father, Bob, spent 43 years of his life committed to the sport of women’s basketball. And finally, a coach that is known for bringing a competitive edge to his players while developing great relationships at the same time.
In the process, those of us involved with the search heard from and about multiple former players, parents, and community members testifying to this fact — including one former player that I heard might be in the room today — that asked to walk her down the aisle.
At the end of the day, we all know the importance of basketball at The University of Kansas. And with that in mind, we sought to find the best person to elevate our women’s basketball program to a higher level of competitiveness, both in the Big 12 Conference and the nation. That person is Coach Brandon Schneider. Welcome, Coach.
COACH BRANDON: I just got to meet Max Falkenstien. How cool is that?
My first visit to Allen Fieldhouse was in the fall of 1995. I was a first-year coach and I called ahead to get permission to come and attend a men’s basketball practice. Before I even stepped on the court, I began to feel it. You know, the goosebumps, the hair on the back of your neck (standing up). There is a wave of something special about this place.
That day, as I drove back to Emporia, any career goals and aspirations that I had were altered. And from that point forward, honestly for the last 20 years, there have been two words that I’ve always wanted to say. I told myself I’m not going to say them. I’m going to wait, and I’m going to wait until one day I get to be part of the KU family, and today I could not be more honored, humbled, to finally get to say ‘Rock Chalk’.
As I said, I’m humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be the new head women’s basketball coach here at The University of Kansas. I do want to thank Chancellor Gray-Little, Dr. Zenger, Debbie Van Saun, Sean Lester, and the rest of the administrative team for giving our family the opportunity to join the Lawrence community, the opportunity to be a part of the University of Kansas, and most importantly, the opportunity to lead the women’s basketball program here at KU.
I do have some really important people that I want to introduce. I’ll start out with my wife, Ali. We’ve been married almost seven years. She grew up going to basketball camps here. My two sons: Cash is five; Cole is 3, getting ready to be 4, I sat down with those guys late Monday night and I told them, ‘Daddy’s going to coach a new team.’ And they said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘The Kansas Jayhawks.’ Cole said, ‘Boys or girls?’ I said, ‘The girls, man.’
As Dr. Zenger said, my father is here. (He’s a) Long-time women’s basketball coach in the state of Texas. I am Brandon. I am Coach Brandon. I am not Coach Schneider. That is Coach Schneider. He’s the only Coach Schneider in our family, and I’m grateful for him being here today.
My mother, Barbara, is here. You will not meet anyone who can criticize and berate officials with the ferociousness that she can. Also here are my father-in-law and my mother-in-law, Joe and Debbie Sprague. Thank you for being here. I’m excited to be closer.
Also, the room’s full of so many friends and family members that have been great supporters of ours for over 20 years. You’ve touched our lives in so many positive ways, and we’re just super grateful for your friendships. Oftentimes, especially in situations like this, you get questions about your philosophy, and I’d be happy to get a lot more specific with the media when we get to Q & A.
But I like to answer that question generally in this way: I believe that coaching and teaching is about taking people where they cannot take themselves. Sometimes when you’re young, we don’t realize the potential. We don’t realize what we’re capable of or the level we’re capable of performing at, whether it’s on the basketball court or whether it’s academically. We don’t realize, as a young person, the impact that we can have on a community, the university community, the community of Lawrence, in particularly the impact you can have on the lives of young people.
I think as a student-athlete here at KU, you have a tremendous responsibility to impact the young people of this community as a college athlete. I believe it’s our job as coaches, our responsibility, to place extremely high expectations on our players socially, academically, and obviously, of course, on the basketball court.
Sometimes players’ expectations can be a little bit lower. It’s our job to educate them, train them and inspire them to achieve at the highest level in every aspect of their lives. I think it’s only then, that as coaches, we can feel good about holding up our end of the bargain. We’re trying to develop the entire person and not just the player.
I once read, ‘You’ll never climb higher than the ladder you select.’ I’m hopeful that as our staff begins to work with and meet with our players that we’re all going to agree that it’s time to select some pretty tall ladders here.
Characteristics, identity; I’d really like to talk about ‘identity’ with our team and what goes into the identity of who we’re trying to become on a daily basis. Dr. Zenger said a former player from the last 17 years could come up here and tell you these four things. I promise you, first and foremost, we are going to play extremely hard. We’re going to be the team that’s jumping over the scorer’s table, diving on the floor for loose balls, rotating to take charges. Secondly, we’re going to be a team that exudes toughness. I love the word ‘exudes’ — to display abundantly. We’re going to exude toughness mentally and physically.
Mentally, we have to be tough enough to move on to the next play. Whether the play was negative or whether the play was a potential top-10 highlight on “SportsCenter,” you have to be tough enough to move on to the next play.
Physically, (it’s) physical toughness. We will be the most conditioned team on the court. We have to have that as a coaching staff, as a strength and conditioning staff. No one will be in better physical condition than the Kansas Jayhawks. Third, we’ll be a team that responds to coaching. It will be what I call a ‘coaching environment.’ We’re going to teach; we’re going to coach; we’re going to instruct. There will be a tremendous emphasis placed on attention to detail, on being fundamentally sound and on being assignment correct.
I had an assistant coach tell me one time that ‘Missed assignments and missed alignments will get you beat long before mismatches’ and I believe that. Lastly, and most importantly in my mind, is that we are going to be a team that promotes unity and communication. Unity among the team, unity among the staff, unity between the team and the staff.
I believe that communication builds trust. I believe that trust builds togetherness and I believe togetherness goes a long, long way in developing team toughness.
Everyone always talks about out-executing their opponents and I think that’s really important. But, in my experience, there is one thing I’m certain of, and that is the toughest and most together teams win an extremely high percentage of the time.
I’d be happy to take any questions.
Q. Has it puzzled you from afar how Kansas can be so good in men’s basketball, and not get even close in the women’s game?
COACH BRANDON: I don’t know that it’s puzzled me. As I told Dr. Zenger the first time I spoke to him on the phone, I think there are five characteristics that an institution has to have to be a nationally-prominent program. When we were speaking I felt like this institution had four, and at the time there wasn’t a coach, so it was missing the fifth.
I see the conference, playing within the toughest women’s basketball conference in the country. Location, tremendous location. You’re virtually three hours from anywhere in the country. Facilities resources, and then the fifth is roster and coaching staff. I feel like this institution, to steal his (Zenger’s) phrase, can ‘Check all the boxes’ in that regard.
Q. You’ve selected a pretty high ladder for yourself.
COACH BRANDON: The one thing I’m not going to do is ever make a bunch of promises on wins and losses. I’m really process-oriented. Our formula — which I learned from that man (his father, Coach Schneider) who won over 1,000 games — has been successful long before I ever began coaching. That’s a formula that we’ll stick to and we won’t waiver from. We feel like in the end, we’ll produce positive results.
Q. Coach, at what point did this sort of all feel real to you? The fact that you were coming to KU?
COACH BRANDON: Well, I was at Disneyland and Cash and I were at the top of California Screamin’, just getting ready to get on the ride. My phone rang; it was Debbie and she had invited me to participate in a phone interview. At that point I thought, ‘I’m going to go after this. I want this.’ I think it felt real there. My Disney trip was cut a little short.
Q. So was it something where you sought out in the beginning and threw your name in? Or did they come after you?
COACH BRANDON: I had a lot of friends that called, texted, ‘Are you going to apply for the KU job?’ And I just told them pretty bluntly, ‘You don’t apply for these jobs.’ I was fortunate that my name ended up as a potential candidate, and I feel very grateful.
Q. Obviously, Emporia State had so much success with in-state recruiting. How much of an emphasis is that here?
COACH BRANDON: We’re definitely going to start in-state. One of the phrases that I use, I think at this institution and in the conference that we play in, ‘We’re going to recruit the planet.’ We’ll go wherever we have to go to get the right fit that fits KU and fits our staff.
But we’ll definitely start in the state of Kansas. There are good players in this state. There are players that are capable of helping our program go to another level. When those players are out there, we have to make sure that they’re not leaving the state and that they’re coming to KU. That will be a big, big emphasis for us, and I feel good about the fact that we’ve cultivated some pretty strong relationships in this state over the years.
Q. With your experience in the state of Kansas, how good is it to be back coaching in the state of Kansas?
COACH BRANDON: I’m a basketball junkie, okay? I’ve never gotten a paycheck that was not related to basketball, working basketball camps, doing skill work, clinics. I did get a check from Paramount Studios one time, but I was a basketball extra. So when you are a basketball junkie, there is no other place you want to be.
Q. While you were coaching in Texas, at Stephen F. Austin, how closely did you watch the basketball program and keep an eye on the Big 12?
COACH BRANDON: Obviously, quite a bit. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances that have been involved in the league over time. The last five years, being in Texas obviously, I’ve been immersed a little bit more in that recruiting scene and that level of player. But when we were at Emporia State, it seemed like every year we were playing one of the in-state schools in an exhibition game. So I really feel like I’m pretty familiar with the history and such with the programs.
Q. How familiar are you with the roster that you’ve inherited?
COACH BRANDON: Three of the players I saw play in high school quite a bit, so I am familiar with them. I did get a chance to speak to all of the signees, the early signees, last night. So we’re just trying to start cultivating those relationships as fast as we can.
You know, you said whirlwind, and you have to prioritize. Right now, my priority is current players, signees and recruiting. Obviously, not only for this class, but for future classes, the emphasis right now is on players.
Q. How about your staff? Where does that fit in or how does that come together?
COACH BRANDON: Right now that’s probably second. I think you have to put the players first. Assembling a staff is critical. We have to get the right kind of people around these young ladies. Who I surround myself with is extremely important to me. It’s not something I want to rush into. You don’t want to make mistakes in recruiting. You dang sure don’t want to make mistakes when you assemble a staff.
Q. What was your message to the returning players?
COACH BRANDON: I’m going to meet them this afternoon. My message to them right now will be, as I tell players all the time, ‘You’re in charge of you. Make sure that you’re handling your business on the court in strength and conditioning workouts, be doing the right things academically.’ Obviously, there is a lot going on with the recruiting period coming up here. I’m going to be in and out of town. But when I’m here, even after we meet, I want them in and out of the office and not just for business meetings, but just for casual conversations so we can start to get to know one another.
Q. If I was reading the timeline right on Twitter, it seems that you’ve been following (Kansas football coach) David Beaty for a while.
COACH BRANDON: I have.
Q. Do you know him?
COACH BRANDON: He’s a Texas boy. I like that. And his wife is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin. I’ve always wanted this university to do well. I’ve been a fan for a long time. I follow a lot of different people that are associated with the university and I’ve met Coach. He was one of the first congratulatory text messages that I got.
Coach (Beaty), I appreciate you being here. It means a lot to me. When we start talking offense, we have a lot of the same philosophies.
Q. Does that include scoring?
COACH BRANDON: Yeah, that’s pretty important. But I just think knowing a little bit about him, he’s going to try to get his players in space and let them make plays; is that right? We’re a big believer in that on the basketball court as well.
Q. Your SFA team was 28th in the nation in scoring.
COACH BRANDON: We were putting together a recruiting booklet the other day and one of the things that we put in there was in my 17 years as a head coach, if you put all the teams together, we’ve averaged about 76, close to 77, points a game. So pace, and being able to play that way, is important to us.
Q. Outside of recruiting, what did that do in preparing you for this?
COACH BRANDON: Well, my father gave me some great advice. Because in 1995 in Division I women’s basketball, the third assistant was a position called Restricted Earnings Coach. I think they were restricted to make $16,000 (per year), number one. Number two, they couldn’t recruit. I had some opportunities to go be a restricted earnings coach somewhere. But my dad said, ‘Don’t do that. You need to go somewhere where you can recruit because if you can make a name for yourself as a recruiter, you’re never going to be out of a job.’
So I took a job at Emporia State making $14,000 and we signed seven players. Cindy Stein and I went to Emporia together, she gave me my first job. We inherited the entire team that first year. We signed seven players and we won 20 games the next year, the third year we won 33. She got the job at Missouri, and then I became the head coach at the age of 26. My best player was Aneta Kausite, a Lithuanian, who was 27. So we had some interesting discussions in the office.
Q. Obviously, you’ve been around the women’s game your whole life. But what was it about the women’s game that made you want to coach it?
COACH BRANDON: Dr. Zenger asked me that same question when we talked on the phone. I played on the men’s side and every summer I would work basketball camps. My dad had, at the time, what was respected as one of the top fundamental camps in the country. He had five weeks of camps. So I’d work his camps and the whole month of July I’d go out and work men’s and women’s camps with Eddie Sutton when he was at Oklahoma State.
So I got to work with players on both sides. I chose women’s basketball for two reasons. Number one, I felt like the women were more receptive to coaching, which was important to me. And number two, I could use him and move up faster (laughing).
Q. In your first tweet I think you said it was going to be challenging as well. What do you see as the immediate challenges of this position?
COACH BRANDON: You’re playing in the Big 12 Conference. You’re now recruiting against affectionately fire-breathing dragons. So the intensity of everything that we do, particularly in recruiting, obviously goes way up. I understand the challenge. As a coach, you sit there and you want to move up in the league. Who are you jumping, you know? Tremendous coaches, nationally renowned, pros playing against pros every night. So I think you have to go out and work extremely hard and stay true to your values and to the process.
Q. You’ve coached here a few times. What were your experiences like and what do you remember?
COACH BRANDON: I don’t want to talk about the times we got whooped. In 2006, we played K-State in an exhibition game and we were fortunate enough to beat them. In 2007, we came in here, played KU in an exhibition game, and we had them beat. At the last minute we turn it over and they get an and-one on the other end. They were Big 12 officials (laughing). They get an and-one on the other end to put it into overtime. And I had a player by the name of Becky Zabel, or Becky Nelson now. She’s married to Jordy Nelson’s brother. Danielle McCray was here at the time, and Becky was the only guard we had on the team that could guard Danielle. Becky fouls out early in overtime, McCray went nuts and they beat us. So those are positive memories.
Q. What do you see with your previous experience being at Emporia State that you can bring to the table here at KU?
COACH BRANDON: Relationships. I feel so blessed to have so many people in the state, and obviously in the Emporia community, who have supported our family vigilantly for years. Those are relationships that are long-lasting and you’re going to lean on those.
Q. Coach, you seem really confident. Was there ever a time you were thinking about taking a job or you took a job, that you took a step back and said, ‘Oh, man, I’m playing against the big dogs now’? Or are you just going with that confidence?
COACH BRANDON: It’s a situation where I love competition. I want to coach against the best. This opportunity gives me the chance to do that. I want to recruit players who want to play against the best. What couldn’t be a better environment for that than being at The University of Kansas and having the chance to participate in the Big 12 Conference?
Thank you, everybody, I really appreciate it.